Warning: I just got home from college group and posted this at 1:00am so I hope my thoughts make sense.
Many of you have heard that phrase before, “drinking water through a fire hose.” Basically meaning that it’s impossible to actually drink water because of the amount and pressure and force of the water coming out. Well, that’s what I sometimes feel like college ministry is like. This last weekend I took a team of 14 college students away for the weekend up to Lake Arrowhead, CA. These 14 students will make up a leadership team that will eventually consist of about 18-25 students during the 2006-2007 school year. They will organize and plan, they will run Bible studies, they will run the worship team, mission trips, etc. for about 200-300 students who will make their way through our ministry this year. These leaders are vital.
But how do we as leaders better equip people, in my case students, who may only be around for a couple of years. For example, in jr. high and high school ministry many of the leaders are adults who are established and who plan on living in a place a while. But in college, the ministries are often run with the help of college students who may only be around for a year, or two, or if you are really lucky, 3-4 years. I have had the privilege of overseeing some really amazing leadership teams in my five years at The Quest, and this year is going to be no different.
But everytime I leave a leadership retreat weekend I often leave feeling both excited and overwhelmed. Excited because everyone can’t wait for school to start, we exchange great ideas and I love watching the joy on everyone’s face. Overwhelmed because I wonder if we will be able to pull our ideas off at times, and I wonder if I really do a good job of retraining 18-25 new leaders every 9-12 months. College ministry feels very much like ministry that is always in process, always evolving and always changing.
There are many different models to college ministry. Some ministries have done a wonderful job of developing adult volunteers over a long period of time, and have great infrastructure built into the ministry so that the transition is seamless from one year to the next. When I think of ministries who do a great job at this and who I can learn a lot from, The Inn at UPC, which is pastored by Mike Gaffney is what most often comes to mind. They do a great job of teaching and empowering other college ministries around the country through their Ascent Network.
Our ministry still feels a little more chaotic at times and I’m still figuring out what the best model is for our ministry at Bel Air. As I mentioned in a previous post it’s a pretty diverse group with over 10 universities and schools attending. So I have been thinking more about tailoring the ministry around the specific gifts of the leaders each year, rather than a specific structure. Sometimes my leaders don’t fit the specific roles and positions that I have put into place.
So what is the place between a set infrastructure, and a place where ministry may conntinue to change and evolve each year depending on who is in leadership and who is in the congregation?
But for now, I feel like our leadership retreat went very well, but I know there was more that we could have talked about and discussed. More than could be done in a two day stay. But in the end I think the leadership retreat is always a fun and amazing experience. It’s an opportunity for all of us to pile into one cabin together and bond. We play games. We make meals together. We study. We pray. We share burdens and worries and laugh. And we stay up late. Actually, I go to bed at about 1:00am and the students finally roll in to bed at about 4-5am. That always makes me feel old. Gone are the days when I can hang all night with my students.
But college ministry is really a great opportunity to empower students in that amazing transition from adolescence to adulthood. And even though we don’t have everything perfectly figured out for the year, the retreat was a great time to brainstorm, innovate and plan. And what we don’t have figured out, well that will unfold during the year. Sometimes it will unfold weeks to months ahead of time. at other times, maybe only days or minutes before something. I love it and there is nothing more amazing than college ministry. They help keep me on my toes and constantly relying on God.